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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tribute to Vince

He may have decided not to stand for the leader's job but there can be no doubt that in his role as acting leader, Vince Cable has not just steadied the ship but also made a distinctive and valuable contribution, a point acknowledged by Tomos Livingstone in today's Western Mail:

MEMBERS of Parliament turned up at the House of Commons yesterday to witness a popular leader who has the unanimous support of his party giving his last performance at Prime Minister’s Questions. Yes, we’re all going to miss Vince Cable.

The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats floored Gordon Brown with his “gone from Stalin to Mr Bean” jibe a couple of weeks ago, and has been ahead of the game on the problems at Northern Rock.

He is a ballroom dancer too, a nice counterpoint to Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne’s fight for the party’s leadership, carried out with a distinct lack of glamour, elegance or charisma.
Mr Cable was at it again yesterday, dancing a pirouette around the Prime Minister.

“When you tuck into your Brussels sprouts on your one day off at Christmas, which of the various disasters of the last six months will haunt you most?” Mr Cable asked, using what William Hague used to call the ‘Have you stopped beating your wife, Prime Minister?’ tactic.

“Your indecision over the election, your inaction over Northern Rock or your gross incompetence over the loss of 25m people’s personal data?”

A little-known fact, by the way, is that Gordon Brown can be quite funny when he wants to be.

His reply to Mr Cable was a good one. “Given the history of the Liberal Party it may not be long before you are back in that place again, representing your party.”

But not as good as Mr Cable’s riposte: “Given your own position, you might not be wise to speculate about leadership elections.”

Cheeky monkey. You almost thought he would dance a little cha-cha-cha and laugh at winning that skirmish.

It’s just as well there was an exchange between Mr Cable and Mr Brown because the Cameron-Brown jousts are becoming a little tedious.

Mr Cameron lists Mr Brown’s problems and ends with a soundbite for the TV news – this week’s was “Wasn’t 2007 the year you got found out?”.

Mr Brown ignores everything Mr Cameron says and accuses him of having nothing to say, before listing a range of policy areas where there are “big decisions” to be taken.

Even MPs have tired a little of the routine – which is why the Vince Cable jive has been the surprise hit of the Westminster year.

Whoever becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats next week, we can be certain that Vince Cable will continue to play a high profile and valuable role.
There is something wrong if the new leader does not maintain Vince Cable in the Shadow Treasury post (and Ming as Shadow Foreign Sec., come to that).

But, let's face it, the Tory scribes are building him up only to contrast him with whoever emerges as the victor on Saturday. If Vince were really to become permanent leader, they would lose no time in criticising his age and mocking his slight tremor.

- Frank Little
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